Drowning Can Happen To Anyone

by Sonya Hawkins
Originally Published: 
Gary John Norman/Getty

Trigger warning: child loss

We have never publicly shared the details of Isla’s death for several reasons. Mainly, it has been such a shock to us that still talking about it seems unreal. I am hoping by sharing her story, it will lead to lives being saved. So, please, share her story and tell everyone that drowning can happen in seconds.

Sunday, April 22 started out like a normal day. We had went to the Kenny Chesney concert the night before and slept in later than normal. Jay had to run a few errands, including picking up donuts for Finn’s class for his birthday the next day. I was home with the kids and they were outside playing around the pool. Isla was NOT in the pool. She would have NEVER gone in the pool.

I was constantly going between inside (folding laundry, etc.) and back outside. I had ordered Uber Eats for lunch and decided to go inside and make a bowl of Easy Mac for Isla for lunch. I texted Jay at 1:04 p.m. I was inside only a minute or two and Finn came in and asked me to come outside. I said, “Sure, give me a minute to finish this Easy Mac.”

He didn’t sound urgent… he didn’t grasp the urgency.

How many times do our children ask us to come in another room, and we reply just a minute? How many times are they outside playing in a fenced in backyard and ask you to come out and you reply just a minute? I wish with all of my heart that I could go back in time and that I would have went outside, but it was just like every other time that he has asked me to go outside.

A minute or so later, he asked me again to go outside. I said OK. I walked outside and saw Isla face down in the pool. My first thought was, this isn’t happening. Noooooooo!

I pulled her out and immediately started CPR. She started throwing up, so I flipped her over and tried the Heimlich. At this point, I realized I needed help and started screaming. A neighbor hopped the fence within seconds and took over on CPR. I ran inside and called 9-1-1 at 1:09 p.m. Paramedics came and Isla was taken to the hospital. It was like a nightmare, a literal living hell. I called Jay, and he met us at the hospital. We were called back where they were working on Isla, both of us hysterical and praying. Then, we heard them say, “someone call it.”

“Time of death, 1:38pm.”

It was like a movie, completely unreal.

34 minutes ago, Isla had been alive and now she was dead. She wasn’t in the pool. Somehow, she must have slipped and gotten knocked unconscious and fell in. She was only 27 pounds. We were told she would have drowned in 30 seconds or less if she was unconscious. You read about it online, you are now reading Isla’s story, and you think it won’t happen to you. BUT, it can.

Bottom line is drowning can happen in seconds. NEVER leave children unattended around a pool. Don’t go to the bathroom, don’t go get popsicles, don’t go make sandwiches for lunch and think, I’ll only be gone a minute or two. I was never worried because I knew that Isla wouldn’t have gone in the pool.

Did you know the majority of drownings occur when a child wasn’t swimming in the water? Please tell your friends and family about pool safety. Please share this post to let people know that it can happen to them and to never be too careful when children are around a pool. Please help us save lives by raising awareness. Please, never, ever leave your children unattended around a pool, even for a few seconds.

Isla was the girliest little girl out there. She loved everything pretty from her hair to her dresses to her shoes. The day before she died, she came in the bathroom and asked, “Whatcha doing, Mommy?”

Courtesy of Sonya Hawkins

I replied, “Mommy is putting on her makeup.” She then said, “I need my makeup too.” I picked her up and put on a touch of makeup and her face lit up. I will never get to do mommy/daughter things with her now. Not only did we lose Isla, but we lost our entire future that we had envisioned for her.

I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It is a literal nightmare that I keep praying we will wake up from, but we won’t.

Please help spread awareness about water safety. I pray that by sharing Isla’s story, we can prevent other parents from experiencing that same heartbreak that we have and that we can save lives.

I just want to stress again, Isla didn’t die because she couldn’t swim. She died because she was left alone for a few minutes… please please please stress to everyone that even if you child is a perfect swimmer, they can still fall, get knocked unconscious and fall in the pool and drown. You can NEVER be too careful. NEVER leave your children unattended for even a second when they are around a pool.

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